In September 2016, Harry released images from his cover story for Another Man Magazine, which would feature three different cover photos, as well as separate photoshoots of varying aesthetics for the incredibly versatile pop star. The cover story offered a deep dive into the universe of one Mr. Harry Edward Styles (who was primed to make his solo debut the following year) including interviews with family and industry friends, as well as an intimate look into the novels, poetry, music, and quirky keepsakes that comprised his world at the time.
Among those treasured items shared with his readers, one would discover this page below, which displayed Harry’s mixtape featuring his Top Ten Favorite Songs Of All Time.
I suppose it shouldn’t surprise you that it is my theory this mixtape was actually a love letter for Zayn in 2016, during what must’ve been one of the toughest times of their relationship. It probably also served as a journal or a digital diary entry for Harry, chronicling all the intense things he was feeling at the time.
I mean c’mon, this is Harry we’re talking about here. He doesn’t do anything without thinking it through thoroughly and without adding tons of underlying sentimental value, which assures me this mixtape held meaning far beyond being his favorite songs at the time. This is the man who loves Zayn so openly and so loudly it has become increasingly obvious to us all over the years. It’s undeniable.
And this is also the lovesick, hopelessly romantic man who personally reached out to Rob Sheffield after reading his book “Love Is A Mixtape,” which he would later list as the book he would read for the rest of his life if he was ever limited to one.
This raw glimpse into love, loss, grief, and reluctantly moving forward is actually based on Rob Sheffield’s own life and the unexpected death of his young wife, Renée Crist. I highly recommend reading the book if you haven’t already. You won’t regret it, and it’s easy to see why Harry is so attached to it.
As for Harry’s mixtape, I’ll link all the songs below, but I will only discuss my favorites, and the ones I felt were closely related to Zarry in 2016.
1 – Pink Floyd – Breathe
Harry put this track first on his mixtape, and I believe there was a reason for that. It was super relevant to what he was experiencing with Zayn at the time. He also made note on another page in his cover story that he had listened to nothing but Dark Side Of The Moon for 6 weeks straight in 2015, and we can all guess why.
However, if you take a closer look at the lyrics in this particular song, we see why Harry may have related this record to his and Zayn’s relationship at the time.
This simple 5-word lyric seems to encapsulate the entire sentiment of the body of songs Harry wrote from 2015-2016, both for Made In The AM as well as his solo debut album. He understood that Zayn needed to leave the band for personal reasons, but didn’t want to lose Zayn himself. I believe this contention is what led to the end of their relationship; and ultimately the end of the band.
Breathe, breathe in the air
Don’t be afraid to care
Leave but don’t leave me
Look around, choose your own ground
For long you live and high you fly
And smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry
And all your touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be
Run, rabbit run
Dig that hole, forget the sun
And when at last the work is done
Don’t sit down, it’s time to dig another one
For long you live and high you fly
But only if you ride the tide
And balanced on the biggest wave
You race towards an early grave
2 – Elvis – Can’t Help Falling In Love
A classic Elvis tune and an American hallmark of true romance. This record will never fail to speak straight to the heart. It landed as number 2 on Harry’s mixtape, so imagine my surprise when directly following the 2018 Still The One performance at MSG, Zayn covered this song in a haunting rendition (reengineering it from top to bottom to lend it his signature sound.) This was all undoubtedly done for Harry. It takes a man wildly in love to create something so achingly beautiful, and no one can convince me otherwise:
3 – Paul McCartney – Heart Of The Country
This is an adorable tune about settling down in a quiet, rural place, presumably retiring from the fast-paced lifestyle of a being a famous musician. It didn’t take long for Zayn to settle down on his own farm in the rural parts of Pennsylvania after leaving the band.
4 – Crosby, Stills & Nash – Helplessly Hoping
This song has always been somewhat unnerving to me. The melody, lyrics, and imagery in this tune are just ghostly, and puts me in the mind of a bleak era of loss and despair. Or like a bad dream you just can’t be awakened from.
The sentiment spelled out in this tune must’ve unquestionably been something Harry related to at the time (in losing Zayn) considering he was still mentioning the song in 2019 when interviewed by the Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield.
Don’t tell me this first verse isn’t Harry in 2015, waiting with bated breath for the moment Zayn left him (something he was powerless to talk him out of.)
Her harlequin hovers nearby
Awaiting a word
Gasping at glimpses
Of gentle true spirit
He runs, wishing he could fly
Only to trip at the sound of good-bye
5 – Ray Charles – Drown In My Own Tears
Uhh… yeah. That title, those lyrics, and just how precisely this heart-wrenching song relates to Zarry from 2015-2016 all speaks for itself. I’ll spare you a monologue.
It brings a tear into my eyes
When I begin to realize
I’ve cried so much since you’ve been gone
I guess I’ll drown in my own tears
I sit and cry just like a child
My pouring tears are runnin’ wild
If you don’t think you’ll be home soon
I guess I’ll drown, oh yes, in my own tears
I know it’s true, mm hmm, into each life
Oh, some rain, rain must pour
I’m so blue here without you
It keeps a-raining more and more
Page Two: Songs 6-10